A presentation will be received providing an Electoral Services update.
Jeremy Chambers, Director of Law & Governance and Maggie Mulhall, AEA Consultant, Electoral Services introduced a presentation
1. This committee now includes in its terms of reference the work that previously went to the Electoral Review Panel. The presentation covers a general update on the work of the elections team. The committee is asked to advise whether any further briefings are required, and this can then be timetabled for a future meeting.
2. There has been a change in the legislation which came in December 2019. This introduced some new methods to undertake the annual canvass.
3. The changes are that; the national data matching is now undertaken for all properties. This identifies if the names on the electoral register matches the names held by the DWP and this was supplemented with local data matching against council databases.
4. Where all details matched the property was assigned a Route 1 direction. All Route 1 properties without emails were sent a form for information or action if any changes. For the first time emails were able to be sent to properties and these went to Route 1 properties where an email address was available. This went out to just over 41k properties reducing the impact of printing and postage for these properties. If the household did not respond to the email then a subsequent letter was sent.
5. Nonmatching properties went into Route 2, this followed the usual format for a normal canvass with a few enhancements. This year the form that was sent out directed the occupier to a digital response (online, telephone or by text). This reduced the amount of returned postage and subsequent mail opening and processing. The reminder form reverted to the original traditional form and included a reply-paid envelope to encourage postal responses and was supplemented by email reminders to these properties where an email address was held. Any non-responding properties were canvassed as normal. This year the team were able to do telephone canvassing where a telephone number was held.
6. Whilst arrangements were put in place to undertake a doorstop canvass this was abandoned following the introduction of Tier Two restrictions. New residents have been identified through data mining trying to find potential electors from data sets that the council has received movement notifications.
7. Route 3 properties is a new category, which includes nursing homes or anywhere that has a single responsible person. The Electoral Registration Officer can approach this person allowing a nonstandard approach to be taken. Telephone contact was made with the home managers and the response was tailored to what was best for them. This has generated a good response.
8. The results of the new methods will provide a foundation for future canvasses
9. The lack of the doorstep canvass has prompted another initiative. In January all residential properties will receive a Household Notification Letter (HNL) detailing the people at the property and advice on how to add, delete or amend the information. A postal vote application will be sent with the HNL to encourage early applications for postal votes. Political parties are requested that if they are undertaking a campaign to encourage postal voting to contact Electoral Services so that resources can be planned around this.
10.The Boundary Commission for England (BCE) have requested the electoral data based on 2 March 2020 electoral totals for the next constituency review. The London Borough of Enfield (Electoral changes) Order was made law on the 12 October 2020. The BCE will use the 2020 new Enfield ward boundaries to create those constituencies. So, a copy of the March Electoral data has been adjusted and provided to the BCE to reflect 2022 ward alterations. This has not altered the current Electoral Register which reflects the current ward arrangements.
11.The next election is the postponed GLA election in May 2021 reflecting the current situation, the Electoral Commission and Cabinet Office are updating their guidance. Preparations are underway looking at impacts of increased postal voting, assessing the availability of experienced staff depending on what Tier levels Enfield is in and looking at the impact of Covid 19 restrictions on nomination delivery, polling stations, postal vote opening and the verification and the count. The planning must consider both the safety of the staff and the voters and the transparency of the election and the ability of the candidates and agents to undertake their normal roles of observation.
12.Southbury Ward vacancy notice has been published; this requires a request from two electors to commence the election timetable. However, all elections are currently delayed until the 6 May 2021. The election will run alongside the GLA but there will be a different timetable for nominations. Further information will be provided on this in the new year.
Questions, comments and queries raised:
· Has a recent review been undertaken on polling stations and whether the usual stations can be used if the current situation is still affected by Covid in May? Officers advised that work has been undertaken, polling stations were written to in June 2020 to check availability. The normal contract is going out now and this will also advise them that the team will be in touch with them with regards to additional restrictions and maybe undertaking surveys for each of the venues. A critical view of all polling stations arrangements will be taken to make sure that they are safe for staff, candidates, agents and voters. A paragraph has been included within the letter on restrictions so that depending on government guidance at the time adjustments may have to be made to how and where polling stations are used.
AGREED to note the update on Electoral Services. Members were invited to respond to Jeremy Chambers by email should any further reports be required.